News

Buena Vista appraiser blasts council's direction, threatens to resign

David Beccaria protests Palo Alto officials' order that he revise scope of appraisal to include schools and safety

An appraiser tasked by Palo Alto officials with recalculating how much assistance residents of the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park should be offered in the event of the park's closure has informed the city that he will not perform the assignment and has threatened to resign if further directed to do so.

In a scathing letter submitted last week, David Beccaria defended the initial appraisal report that his firm performed as part of the Relocation Impact Report for the closure of Buena Vista, the city's sole mobile-home park.

The appraisal was a critical component in the report, which took more than two years to complete. Beccaria's appraisal was also the central point of controversy at the six-hour hearing that took place on April 14 and that culminated with the council tentatively approving the closure application.

In signaling their intent to approve the closure application, council members specified that the relocation assistance offered to the mobile-home park's roughly 400 residents would need to be revised to reflect the value of local schools and safety. The council directed Beccaria to move ahead with a fresh analysis that considers those factors. The council is set to formally approve the closure application on May 26.

Beccaria's recent declaration that he will not perform the work that the council assigned him may complicate the discussion and delay the approval. Beccaria, who is CEO of the firm Beccaria & Weber, informed city officials in his letter that his firm will not revise the scope of its appraisal and that it "will not engage in further discussions about appraisal methodology of Scope of Work issues."

During the lengthy April 14 council hearing, Beccaria's analysis faced criticism from appraiser Jim Brabant, who was commissioned by the Buena Vista residents and who concluded that Beccaria's appraisal was "flawed and does not provide reasonable estimates of in-place market value."

Most of the shortcomings, Brabant wrote, have resulted in an under-valuation of the homes. He also noted that in Beccaria's comparison of Buena Vista to other mobile-home parks in the region, the "superior Palo Alto location seems to be lost in the process."

Beccaria, for his part, defended his analysis and argued that the value of schools and safety is already embedded in his figures. He noted that the condition of Buena Vista homes is far worse than homes in other mobile-home parks in the region and claimed that the only reason Buena Vista residents are willing to pay comparable prices for their homes is precisely because of the schools.

"The economics say, 'I want to be in Palo Alto at all costs and I'm willing to do it to get my kids into Stanford or get my kids into the high school and get my kid in the school district. I'm going to make every possible sacrifice to make this happen,'" Beccaria told the council at the April 14 hearing. "That's what's going on. Who can blame them?"

But attorneys for the residents claimed that schools need to be specifically considered in the appraisal, despite the fact that the city's mobile-home-park ordinance does not list schools as a factor that needs to be considered in determining what constitutes a "comparable community" to Palo Alto.

In his May 5 letter, Beccaria bluntly rejects this council direction. He defended his original methodology and argued that none of the criticisms brought against the reports by attorneys or council members have "altered any of our opinions of value, the methodology utilized, or our Scope of Work." He also asserted that he will consider other communication by the city on this topic as "pressuring the appraiser," which is illegal under a 2007 state law.

"I will not allow that to happen," Beccaria wrote. "The appraisal process can not be caught up into the political controversy that exists in this community regarding this mobile home park.

"We must maintain our independence and impartiality. I am not an advocate for any party. I only advocate for the opinions of value stated in the reports. We will not engage in further discussions about appraisal methodology of Scope of Work issues."

In response to Beccaria's refusal, attorneys for the residents issued their own letter Tuesday arguing that it's time for the city to hire a new appraiser and move ahead with a new Relocation Impact Report. Beccaria's "stubborn defense of his scope and methodology and rigid refusal to consider modifying them only compound the serious flaws in his original report," wrote James Zahradka, attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, which is representing Buena Vista residents.

Zahradka noted that Brabant's criticism of Beccaria's methodology is "directly aligned with the direction in the council's motion, which seeks to capture the significant value of the public schools and public safety that a Palo Alto address conveys."

"Mr. Beccaria has decided to defy the council and ignore these factors," Zahradka wrote. "Thus, it is clear that for the council's directive to be followed, a different appraiser will need to be appointed, and new appraisals will have to be conducted."

Zahradka urged the council to direct staff to supply a list of qualified appraisers and to "inform the park owner that if he wants to pursue his closure application, he will need to submit a new Relocation Impact Report including information based on the new appraisals."

Margaret Nanda, attorney for the Jisser family, which owns the mobile-home park, has argued throughout the closure process that because schools are not specifically listed in the ordinance, they should not be given particular consideration. She also vigorously objected to the council's demand for new appraisals, asserting her right to challenge the requirement in court.

Attorneys from both sides will have a chance to submit briefs in response to the council's tentative decision before the May 26 meeting. If the council votes to approve the closure application, it would allow the Jisser family to begin the six-month eviction process immediately after.

Related content:

Nonprofit joins effort to preserve Buena Vista | May 6, 2015

Santa Clara County in a 'race against the clock' to save Buena Vista | April 22, 2015

Attorneys debate the value of a Palo Alto education | April 17, 2015

Lawyer: Buena Vista evictions could start next month | April 16, 2015

Buena Vista's closure hangs on new appraisal | April 14, 2015

Buena Vista residents make final plea to save their homes | April 13, 2015

Videos from the two Buena Vista hearings

The Weekly has compiled an archive of news coverage capturing the many voices of the people involved in the fight over Buena Vista.

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on May 13, 2015 at 8:37 am

Enough is enough, Politicians!

Do you want Medical Doctors to give assessment of patients' prescription benefits in dollars?


59 people like this
Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2015 at 9:20 am

From what I understand, the original appraiser is saying that he doesn't need to re-appraise the RV's and mobile homes because he already included the value of being in Palo Alto and PAUSD in his appraisals.


58 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 9:24 am

Wow. If the council "shops the appraisal" to get one they like, it seems certain to generate a law suit - heck, if it were me, I'd sue them just on principle. Not sure how the original appraiser was selected, but if all parties agreed, then they should live with the opinion.


54 people like this
Posted by Desert Jack
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 10:04 am

Beccaria's "stubborn defense of his scope and methodology and rigid refusal to consider modifying them only compound the serious flaws in his original report," wrote James Zahradka, attorney with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, which is representing Buena Vista residents.

Pure bull hockey. Beccaria is attacked by Zahradka because he refuses to bend to political pressure and stands by his appraisal. Zahradka, on the other hand, is a lawyer for the Buena Vista residents and is obviously not impartial.

Council must approve the closure application on May 26. No more waffling - it's long past time to move on.


12 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2015 at 10:11 am

"From what I understand, the original appraiser is saying that he doesn't need to re-appraise the RV's and mobile homes because he already included the value of being in Palo Alto and PAUSD in his appraisals."

Yes. If I were him I'd rewrite each trailer's appraisal in two lines: its fair market value, and the value added from schools, etc., with their sum equal to the present appraised value. Point made and documented. Done.


21 people like this
Posted by CC run amok
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2015 at 10:22 am

CC and their underlying residential constituents are moving Palo Alto another step closer to lawsuit(s). Well done!


22 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 10:23 am

Lawsuit waiting to happen.


14 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:34 am

Both of these ideas above make a lot of sense to me.

"From what I understand, the original appraiser is saying that he doesn't need to re-appraise the RV's and mobile homes because he already included the value of being in Palo Alto and PAUSD in his appraisals."

"Yes. If I were him I'd rewrite each trailer's appraisal in two lines: its fair market value, and the value added from schools, etc., with their sum equal to the present appraised value. Point made and documented. Done."


24 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 13, 2015 at 11:17 am

This is common sense.

The "value" of a home already has factors beyond brick, mortar, square footage, etc... A home's value is heavily influenced by local demand and demand is determined individually based upon location, scarcity of housing, climate, jobs, schools, etc... In other words, the value of education in Palo Alto is already in the value of the property.

The problem that I have is whether or not a person who owns a trailer (and not the property) should be compensated as though he was a property owner. After all, an RV is no more "valuable" in Palo Alto than it is in Fargo -- no matter what lot it sits upon. The value of the lot shouldn't be confused with the value of a mobile trailer.


14 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2015 at 11:42 am

There are two parts of the BV compensation package:

The value of the (not so) mobile home itself (where geographic location is a factor)
The value of the appropriate relocation costs

That is why the "within 35 miles" requirement is written into the appraisal instructions.

The appraiser has essentially stated that those two factors have been thoroughly evaluated (including factors such as school district, medical facilities, shopping, etc.) and are included in the numbers provided.

The issue is that there some people or organizations who refuse to accept those figures as accurate. Despite the fact that a court appointed arbiter has decided (after Several other attempts by the Jissers) that the numbers are accurate and fair.

This mess is going to end up in the courts one way or another. Either the Jissers will sue if the CC refuses to agree or the FOBV will sue over the results of the appraisal.


4 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 11:44 am

@CPD - who appointed the appraiser and when? Do you know?


3 people like this
Posted by joe
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 11:52 am

The city appointed the appraiser.


28 people like this
Posted by Desert Jack
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 11:53 am

I recall that the city gave the Jisser family a list of approved appraisers, and the family selected Beccaria from that list.

If Council blatantly ignores reality and does not approve the closure application on May 26, then a lawsuit by the Jisser family and the recall of the city council will both be justified.


46 people like this
Posted by Wasting $$
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 11:59 am

Gotta give Beccaria credit for standing his ground and not bending to political pressure. As he said, "pressuring the appraiser" is illegal. The CC was foolish for approving the new appraisal after the relo package was adjudicated fair. They could have ended this but now, as many have said, there will be a lawsuit. City Council opened that door and the taxpayers will pay for it.


17 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 13, 2015 at 12:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

It is a very good practice for elected officials to practice saying "I made a mistake" before the beginning of each meeting. I know - it is really hard to say.


33 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2015 at 12:20 pm

Slow Down is a registered user.

@Crescent Park Dad - "The issue is that there some people or organizations who refuse to accept those figures as accurate."

You are being too generous, it isn't that opponent doubt the accuracy, it is that they want to stall for more time and extort more money.


16 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm

> They could have ended this but now, as many have said, there will be a lawsuit. City Council opened that door and the taxpayers will pay for it.

I am one of those who has long been predicting a lawsuit concerning the BV issue. It is a private deal, yet our CC injected its liberal guilt into the middle of it, with calls for public monies and delays. We PA citizens will pay for this fiasco (we already are!). But that doesn't really bother the guilt-feeling libs...prime example: Joe Simitian and Karen Holman. I think they welcome a lawsuit by the owner of BV...that would create more delays, and more time for potential recruitment of more public monies (and more delays)...in the end they would agree to a deal with the owner, which include that he pay for all court costs.


9 people like this
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 13, 2015 at 12:26 pm

> That is why the "within 35 miles" requirement is written into the appraisal instructions.

CPD, just to be clear, the "within 35 miles" only applies to mobile homes that can be moved to a new park. It does not apply to any relocation package for residents moving to an apartment.

During the April hearing, the Buena Vista Residents Association had their expert testify about the inadequacy of the relocation package because it did not include "reasonable relocation compensation" for moving residents within 35 miles of Palo Alto. Councilman Scharff directly asked the resident's attorney: Where in the ordinance do you see the 35 mile compensation requirement for a relocation to an apartment? The residents attorney, wasn't able to do that. He replied that although he was sympathetic, Sharff said he felt he was being mislead by the Resident's Association on exactly this point.

Unfortunately for the residents, there is no 35 mile relocation requirement in the closure ordinance unless a mobile home would be moved from Buena Vista to a comparable mobile home park.


22 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm

@Craig Laughton - your prediction reminds me of Chop Keenan vs. Half Moon Bay, where they messed with him and his property and he ended up with a $37M judgment (later settled out for $18M I think), crippling the town. It can happen...


17 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 12:51 pm

>Craig Laughton - your prediction reminds me of Chop Keenan vs. Half Moon Bay, where they messed with him and his property and he ended up with a $37M judgment (later settled out for $18M I think), crippling the town. It can happen...

@Wow: Yep, I have kept that one in my mind since it happened. You are right: It can happen. Unfortunately, though, our CC could care less...they think that liberal guilt trumps all else. Half Moon Bay had the same affliction...until Keened gave them a cure.


14 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 1:03 pm

"Karen Holmes and Simitian wouldn't mind a law suit if it delayed the closure". This is why a suit has not been file. Strategy will be to let them sign off on the 26th with any modifications they want. The park can legally close then and still move forward with a law suit.


It's what I would advise my client!! No reason to further delay the process.


26 people like this
Posted by Really Concerned
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on May 13, 2015 at 1:09 pm

Wow wrote: "crippling the town. It can happen..." It DID happen - and to Palo Alto! Google "Arastra Ltd. Partnership v. Palo Alto, City of". That law suit cost Palo Alto $7,500,000 (in 1975 dollars). The city had to defer all improvement project for THREE years.

PLEASE CC: don't repeat the foolish actions of the past.


14 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm

This is unbelievable! Lawsuit against our city is probably pending. And all of this is because of a mobile home park


4 people like this
Posted by Wow
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 1:19 pm

@Really Concerned - that is an interesting example. I found a discussion of it in a land use textbook under the heading of "Government Confusion and Bad Faith." My favorite part:

"The city argued that there...was no taking. The district court responded that this argument took a lot of nerve..."

Web Link


19 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 13, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Where's the city attorney hiding? Has she provided counsel to cc members? Our city is on the wrong side if the law on this fight. Quit using public funds - translation MY TAX DOLLARS- to commit Waste Fraud and Abuse!


16 people like this
Posted by Desert Jack
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2015 at 2:35 pm

From the "Half Moon Bay Review" dtd. 11 Aug 2010:

"It’s been one year since Half Moon Bay paid off its $18 million settlement obligation to Palo Alto developer Charles Keenan. But even though the case is closed in the courts, it still retains a strong presence in Half Moon Bay. The city is saddled with debts that citizens will be paying off for years to come..."

Closer to home, on 26 May the Palo Alto City Council will have to step up and approve the application to close Buena Vista. This will be hard for the members to do after all their liberal pandering, but if they can't bring themselves to follow the law, then eventually we, the citizens of Palo Alto, may be stuck paying millions of dollars in damages to the Jisser family. After all, a similar thing happened in Half Moon Bay.


Like this comment
Posted by rent control?
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 4:07 pm

One thing I haven't heard the appraisals mention is the value of living under rent control, which would not be the case elsewhere in Palo Alto (but would be the case in i.e. EPA). My understanding is that the buyout for SF residents of rent-controlled units is around $50K.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on May 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm

It is clear that the people of the unmovable trailer park are for money grab, it is understandable. If in their position I would behave the same. What is not understandable is why our CC is involved and quite frankly is trying saddle constituents with responsibility that they have nothing to do with. If there is lawsuit against the city (us) then we ought to countersue council members.


3 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 5:29 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

The price always goes up when Government (deep pockets) are involved, or at least becomes non-negotiable. Remember the $400 Hammer?


14 people like this
Posted by Total Recall
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Recall? Did somebody say Recall?

CC, this is real. Put away the Cracker Jack, interpretive law bending perspectives. Take the training wheels off, realize a backbone and stop filibustering every app that comes down the pipe. BV, Uni, Page Mill, what else is next? Thus is going to get expensive for all with this Mickey Mouse club.


9 people like this
Posted by GoneOnTooLong
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Owner can successfully sue under the "Takings clause"....

1) City and County in partnership with Carnitas to buy BV.
2) City and County set aside $16M+ and intent of to partner in purchase made public.
2) City of PA depresses market value by driving up park closure costs (appraisal cost, and relocation/mitigation costs).
3) County Supervisor Simitian states on record that City bid to purchase BV has advantage over other buyers due to cost of relocation benefits.
4) The greater the relocation and mitigations costs the City can fabricate, the lower the cost to the City County for purchase. Drive the closure costs high enough, and eventually the City gets the land for free.

= the definition of "taking"

Refs:

"Caritas, a company based in Irvine, has entered into a contract with Santa Clara County that, in its first phase, requires the company to put together a purchase and sale agreement with the Jisser family, which owns the 4.5-acre mobile park"

Web Link


" In late January, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed to allocate $8 million out of its affordable-housing fund for the preservation of Buena Vista"

" City Manager James Keene followed suit and set aside $8 million of the city's money, pending the council's approval after the appeal hearings. "

Web Link


Simitians statement as reported by PA Online:

".... He also noted that the county's and the city's bid to preserve Buena Vista has one advantage over potential commercial buyers. He estimated that the relocation benefits that the Jissers would have to pay to each of the roughly 100 homeowners would be roughly $60,000, pushing the total to around $6 million. The public entities, meanwhile, would not have to pay this sum because there would be no relocation associated with their purchase of the site. "

Web Link


10 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 8:03 pm

If Holman and the recently elected "new residentialists" hope to keep Buena Vista open with litigation, they're in for a short ride.

Nobody in our neighborhood is happy to see anyone lose their home, but at this point it's time to move on and let the park close. There are better ways to provide affordable housing than litigating a pointless case against the owner.


9 people like this
Posted by to bill
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2015 at 10:31 pm

It's the PAF folks, not the residentialists, who are in favor of keeping BV open at all costs.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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